Saturday, February 12, 2011

Days of Chunder

Mark Martin
The Daytona 500 isn't until Sunday, but that hasn't stopped a cyclone of cameras from already forming over parts of Florida. Yes, somewhere in Volusia County, the motoratti is hunched around a middle aged man in a butter-bean green jumpsuit, scribbling intently as he holds forth on his latest spit-cup endorsement. Could I make that up? Sure, but it wouldn't compare to the rarefied air inside the marketing and media maelstrom that is NASCAR's biggest race. But don't take my word for it, though. Ask Weaver. For the better part of a week, Mr. "Call the Law" himself has been prowling the grounds in a souped-up sat truck, high-fiving drivers and fans alike as he and a couple of Kevins crank out a steady stream of racing reportage. But what self-respecting media blitz would be complete without a torrent of social media? None that we'd be a part of, which is why at this very moment Weaver is most probably yammering into his Droid about the racing stripes on Clint Boyer's tube socks. Hey look, I just dropped the name of a Nascar driver I couldn't pick out of a line-up! Maybe I'm becoming a racing fan after all, maybe I'm discovering the bleary-eyed gear-head within, or maybe it's just because Weaver's many tweets come directly to my phone...

Yeah, that's GOTTA be it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Seventh Inning Kvetch

Wake Forest Coach returns

It's not often you'll find me on the scene of a straight-up sports story, but the recent case of the college coach who gave one of his players a kidney was so inspiring I had to make an exception. Also, Sheeka and I were without a story that day and The Suits thought we could milk a little more emotion out of this future Made for TV Movie. Who could blame them? It's not every day a college baseball coach coughs up a kidney for a Freshman outfielder. Even an information isolationist like myself had heard rumblings all week about the Wake Forest coach who'd put an internal organ where his mouth is. Talk about diggin' deeeep. Still, I was more than happy to ignore the story from afar, lest any of that alleged humanity wash away my hard-earned cynicism. Well, that's not entirely accurate...

I abhor baseball. There, I said it. Hell, I typed it! Misguided as it may be, my aversion to this once national pastime has deep roots. Back when I was but a boy, I followed my parent's suggestion and tried out for the church baseball league. I made the team, but my thick glasses and complete lack of athleticism left me a marked fourth grader. For the entire season, I rode the bench, never once playing in a game. Still, I preferred the games to practice, for that's when I did take the field, only to be openly disparaged by kids who didn't know better and adults who should have. I blame the coach, a small minded lout who - between globs of tobacco spit - took great pleasure in ostracizing me at every turn. I grew to hate him, his half-drunk supplicants and most everything else that these good ole boys of summer held dear . At the age of eleven, I swore I'd NEVER take part in another team sport. It's a promise I've kept to this day.

Anyhoo, enough background. I don't lie in bed at night cursing the name of Abner Doubleday, or drive by ballparks all slow and gangsta-like, but neither do I go out of my way to attend, support or acknowledge this wretched form of recreation. Having said that, I'll point a camera at (most) anything my bosses wish, so when they suggested we be in place when a post-op coach joins all but one of his players on the field, I headed West without much thought to my barely-buried hang-ups. Which was a really good move, since not only did it allow me to remain employed but it restored my faith in bent-bill strategists. Coach Tom Walter moseyed up slow, four days removed from surgery and missing a kidney. Still, he was a man in full, accomodating the many cameras awaiting him without once appearing to gloat. His quiet advice to always think of others almost made me rethink my stance on baseball. At the very least it reminded me that not ALL coaches are like the miserable choad I suffered under.

Just don't ask me to play catch.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wayne's World

Covill by the Numbers

Far be it from me to objectify my former colleague Wayne Covil, but the longer I stare at this antiquated frame grab, the more I marvel. It's from a WNCT-TV promo, circa 1990. Wayne wasn't the star of the spot, but rather a reporter hard at work as a Creative Services lens swept through the newsroom. What that camera captured was worthy of engraving; visual proof of a period when the only computer in the newsroom was a cheap digital watch or a calculator that couldn't crack Algebra. Am I reading too much into it? Sure, but I became a (news) man in that room and seeing one of my mentors frozen there forever reminds me of a kinder, gentler era. Allow me to break it down by the numbers...

1) What can you say about wood paneling? Not much other than it was that thin simulated wood grain crap that would still give you splinters if you rubbed up against it wrong. Mostly, we hung Associated Press awards on that wall - the official imprimatur of any Roy Hardee-led newsroom. Imagine our alarm on the weekends when someone would slam the back door and all that gilded praise would clatter to the floor in a clump of scratched plaque compunction. I didn't do it!

2) That's no broom closet - that's an edit bay! But don't look for any glistening new Mac or tricked out PC's - they're not there! Instead, you'll find a couple of player/record decks from the Carter administration, all tied together by a control panel that's missing a few buttons but sporting several condiment splotches. It's difficult to explain to today's non-linear editors, but making news on these machines was always a thrill, like flying a biplane to the Moon.

3) Were I the technical type, I could recite the very model number of this orange Ikegami. I can't. What i can tell you is that it was all sharp edges and stiff toggle switches. The faded viewfinder screen looked like a Monet painting in progress and you didn't point it at a light unless you wanted a big ugly smear in your shot. Still, it was this exact breed of beast that first rode on my shoulder, lit up my id and bolstered my soul. Just don't ask what it did to my back!

4) This one's complicated, so I'll go slow: It's a file cabinet (fahyl kab-uh-nit), a squat metallic structure designed to house sheaves of lumber in an orderly manner. Think of it as an external hard drive for the pre-PC generation. It operates much the same - except the only search button is the callous on your thumb formed by a thousand paper cuts. Also, the metal file cabinet made a most distinctive sound when kicked by an anchor in mid-tantrum. Trust me on that.

5) Look closely. That's no hollow set prop, but a functioning desktop telephone of the original touch-tone variety. Oh, they're still around, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one with so few features. Transferring a call? Not without getting up, you're not. Park and Page? What the hell are you talking about? Here's one thing those old phones were good for: Intern defense! Tie two handsets together and you have a pair of homemade nun-chucks custom made for getting that kid with the clip-on tie outta your chair. H-o-u-r-s of fun!

6) Who knew the electric typewriter would go the way of the wagon wheel? Not me! No, when I staggered into the sea of Channel Nine technology, ye olde typewriter was the only instrument I felt good about playing. These days of course they're considered useless relics, but with nary a button on board that would conjure up Facebook, Twitter or Porn, reporters using them finished their scripts a whole lot faster. Unless of course there were corrections to be made. Wait 'til you wrap your head around White-Out...

7) And then there was the correspondent in question. Even back then, Wayne Covil was a master of multi-tasking: shooting, writing, editing and fronting his reports. Not only that, but Wayne acted as an ambassador of sorts, charming the secrets out of street people an patricians alike. Yes, back when the term 'VJ' meant Martha Quinn, Wayne Covil was (and remains) one helluva One Man Band. Today's generation of distracted babblers could learn a lot from such a laser-focused Luddite. As for those glasses...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Schmuck Alert: Bashing the Flash

School Official goes Schmuck!

When last we saw Joey Flash, the former El Ocho photog was settling into new digs down in Georgia's capital. Since then, he's navigated the mean streets of Atlanta with his trademark aplomb, processing froth and atrocity into bite-size nuggets while maintaining his goofball status. Which is why it's so disturbing to see him and his camera slapped about by some addled school administrator. But that's what happened just yesterday as Joey and reporter Tony McNary asked parents their opinions about a local sexting case involving a principal. A principal! DeKalb County school administrator Dr. Grace Anderson must have been equally outraged, for she stomped off campus and promptly batted about Joey's lens. Now, THAT'S leadership! The clip in question, which can be floating around Facebook but NOT on the station website, clearly shows the assault. However, a police officer on-scene must have missed the whole thing, for he shooed away the apoplectic administrator without so much as a dirty look. Let's see... a principal with sex organs on his phone, an administrator who acts like a thug, a cop who does nothing and a TV station that doesn't share the footage with their viewers... No wonder Atlanta has such a shitty rep!


Monday, February 07, 2011

Cracked Rear View

SLens Sunrisehe had a face for television and an ass the size of an old chest of drawers. That was okay though, since she rarely let G. Lee get anywhere near it with his camera. For six years they’d worked together off and on, Bridgette with her wireless microphone and winning smile, he with his over-sized Sony and thousand yard stare. Together, they were an Emmy winning news crew. Apart, they probably wouldn’t have much to do with each other. But local television makes for strange bedfellows. He knew she looked down on his late nights and young dates; she’d said as much. And he’d rather take a lawn dart to the eye socket than hang out with her society friends. Still, when it came to deadline making, G. Lee had her considerable back.

How couldn’t he? They’d interviewed Presidents and peasants together, sometimes in the same shift. They’d ridden in police cars, helicopters and a few Christmas parades G. Lee would like to forget about. Once they drove all the way to Philly to profile a new procedure some surgeons had up their scrubs. That had been a long trip. Somewhere along the Jersey turnpike, he’d even threatened to throw her Celine Dion CD’s out the window. He would have too, had she not relented and let him enjoy some low volume Metallica. In truth, he succumbed to her wishes more times than not. She was pushy that way; it was what made her such a good reporter. That and her insatiable need to stir whatever pot she could uncover. G. Lee still shook his head in disbelief whenever he thought of that drive-by. A young girl had died under a street light and when Bridgette had accidentally stepped in a puddle of her blood, a prop was born. That night in her live shot, she waved the bloody pump around like a conductor’s baton. Bad taste? You betcha, but it finally won her that gold-plated Goddess she’d spent so much money on.

Now, six years later, Bridgette and G. Lee were still on the beat. If you called chasing degenerates and bent fenders a beat. All those showbiz junkets and in-depth interview trips had dried up along with the budget. Now the aging beauty queen and the shaggy cameraman were back where they started when the first bush was on office. Crime, grime, a thousand points of blight. It made for easy fare, but G. Lee missed the old days, when he could spend three days in the edit bay, slicing away at some puff piece that only he appreciated. But there was little appetite for that now. All the desk wanted was murder, mayhem and the occasional marauding. Which is how he once again came to be parked outside the projects, watching Bridgette through the windshield as she chatted up the blunts and forty ounce crowd. With her powder blue pantsuit and blonde ‘do, she looked like an Avon lady trying to sell lipstick to crackheads.

“Care to join me, Spielberg?’ Bridgette asked the wireless microphone in her hand. Her voice crackled in his earpiece and he threw up a good natured middle finger in response. Then he stashed his Blackberry, grabbed his camera and began walking toward his weekend anchor lady in waiting. Whatever she was up to, he knew this forty two year old multiple cat owner with very few friends would see to it they’d get a nice dinner break along the way. It was one of the things he DID like about her. No matter the assignment, she made sure they ate, often picking up the tab. It was a way she let him know she kinda cared and would always have his back... long as he she didn't see hers on any TV screens...

Any Given Photog

When's the last time some jacked-up gladiator flattened YOU at work? It happened last night to an unfortunate photog working for NFL Films. There he was, shooting the - ahem - "Big Game" when Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Rashard Mendenhall plowed into him after a seventeen yard gain in the third quarter. Point of impact is eight seconds in: Mendenhall collides at damn near top speed, the photog takes it like a (camera)man, absorbing the blow and tumbling backwards - all while rockin' a blue NFL photo vest we'd ALL like to have hanging in our game room. As for the guy in tights, Mendenhall didn't seem to enjoy the encounter. He took a knee long enough to spit out a few chunks of fancycam. Here's hoping the photog's okay. Now, someone roll that beautiful spleen footage...